In 2012, post-grunge heroes Bush embarked on a national tour across the US, but not as the headlining band; instead, they played third fiddle to two other modern arena staples, Seether and Nickelback. For fans of the English rockers that took the 90s by storm, this was an utterly perplexing move; Bush’s tenure far outstripped either of the acts they were opening for, and as far as musical association, they were far more based in grunge and even experimental sound than the radio-friendly crunch-and-stomp of their tourmates. Apparently, however, this association didn’t vanish after that tour, as I found myself arguing this very same point with a friend days before this show. Despite his insistence that the pop caliber and gravel-tinged vocals put them at the same point of similarity as their Canadian cohorts from two years prior, I fiercely maintained that Bush’s dynamic songwriting, complex lyricism, and constant sway between snarlingly raw and shimmeringly electronic production have placed them in a position that few other acts manage to span in their career. Friday’s show proved that I was not the only one who was still passionate in these beliefs, as Bush kicked off their 2015 headlining tour at The Masonic in San Francisco before a massive crowd that joined in unison to sing and sway to tunes both new and old, every moment indulging in the music that poured over them.
The two opening acts for the evening brought their own colors (literally and figuratively) to the show, each taking the stage like they owned the show and joyously engaging with the crowd, though the dark alt-metal rockers from Los Angeles, Stars In Stereo, spent more time encouraging the crowd to clap, pump their fists and shout than the not-quite-country-but-not-fully-grunge-either BC quartet known as Theory Of A Deadman, who followed them (and seemed to have called a significant fanbase of their own). This seemed to be a theme of acts throughout the evening; the more popular and seminal the band, the less likely they were to actively engage in the crowd mid-song. Not that this was a detriment to either’s performance; Becca Hollcraft of Stars In Stereo kept her doe-eyed countenance and sinuous form taut with concentration and energy, whether just singing or taking up rhythm guitar, and the dynamite movements of Theory Of A Deadman guitarist Dave Brenner balanced well with the spotlight-drenched catwalk of frontman Tyler Connolly, the latter attracting far more admiration as he threw handfuls of guitar picks into the audience throughout the set. Both openers held their own remarkably well, and filled the halls of The Masonic with a few hours of memorable tunes before bequeathing the stage to the headlining act.
Entirely unperturbed by the screaming and jubilations that accompanied their entrance, Bush, led by the silver-sweatshirt-clad Gavin Rossdale, tore into their set with fierce gusto, kicking off the evening with their post-hiatus single “The Sound Of Winter” and new track “Bodies In Motion” from their 2014 record Man On The Run. Bathed in a dizzying array of lights and backed by a dazzling LED-powered screen, the men of Bush walked, ran, and leapt across the stage with the precision and ease of veterans; Rossdale even hurled himself at the edge of the crowd in a powerslide in the solo of “Everything Zen”. Despite this being the first show on the tour, the performance was void of the commonly-expected mistakes or slip-ups that plague a pilot performance; the band glided from song to song with nary a misstep or confused look at their road crew, and instead plowed through a memorable set that spanned the entirety of their career (though, surprisingly, devoid of songs from their last pre-hiatus record Golden State).
Rossdale, clearly no stranger to being the focal point of admiration, did his best to focus on his songs through the course of the set; occasionally, he would break from his stoic concentration and speak to the crowd, and his words were celebratory and grateful to their fans, so pleased were they to be sharing a pleasant evening with so many who sang along with them. The “unflappable frontman” image, however, completely dissolved at the end of the main set, when the band hurtled into an explosive performance of “Little Things” and Rossdale leapt offstage, first into the barricade-bordered photo pit and within reach of the most hardcore of fans, and then full-bore into to the fray, his mic clutched furiously as he bounced up and down in the midst of the ecstatic crowd. A more somber and reserved Rossdale was present to close the evening with a solo performance of “Glycerine”, but not before many minutes of grinning and fanatical gesticulations as the band played a startlingly brilliant cover of Talking Heads’ classic hit “Once In A Lifetime”. Rossdale had all of the candor and sway of a well-seasoned rockstar, but none of the ego, and it was delightful to watch him giddy with excitement as he was swathed in the arms of his fans.
Not having gotten to see Bush before their early-into-the-new-millenium hiatus, I had the pleasure of watching them as they owned the stage of the Great American Music Hall nearly four years prior in a triumph return tour; it was clear, however, that they needed more room and were not used to performing on so small a stage, and The Masonic provided them with a perfect stage to occupy. Though I missed hearing some of my favorite tunes from Golden State, the material on Man On The Run was absolutely on sparkling form at this show. Rossdale had said, in interviews, that he wrote the songs with the band’s live show in mind, and with the implication that they would have no studio magic that could not be replicated in concert; this statement was definitely true, and every song from the record was just as striking and powerful in a live setting — if not moreso. The balance throughout the set was even and full; though Bush had spent 10 years out of the limelight, this evening gave no evidence to that absence ever occurring.
- The Sound of Winter
- Bodies In Motion
- Everything Zen
- The Chemicals Between Us
- Greedy Fly
- This House Is On Fire
- The Gift
- Just Like My Other Sins
- The Only Way Out
- Letting The Cables Sleep
- Insect Kin
- Little Things
- Once In A Lifetime (Talking Heads)
Additional photos from the show below. All photos © 2015 Jonathan Pirro
Theory Of A Deadman:
Stars In Stereo: